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Cleric wrote letter of support for sex offender

Added on February 18, 2008


By Se?n McC?rthaigh
A SENIOR cleric, who was forced to retire as head of a religious order in 1994 over his role as superior of the infamous paedophile priest Fr Brendan Smyth, has recently provided a character reference to another notorious sex offender facing a criminal prosecution.

Fr Kevin Smith, the former head of the Norbertine Order in Ireland, gave a letter of support to Simon McGinley ? convicted of raping the 13-year-old girl at the centre of the ?C? Case where she won the right to go to Britain for an abortion ? for his appearance before Monaghan District Court on a drink driving charge last month.

The 77-year-old cleric retired as abbot of the Norbertines? Irish headquarters at Holy Trinity Abbey, Kilnacrott, Co Cavan, in 1994 as a result of his role as the late Fr Smyth?s superior for 25 years. During the controversy, which led to the resignation of Albert Reynolds as taoiseach in 1994, Fr Smith was blamed for covering up his colleague?s sexual abuse of children by arranging to have him moved to institutions in Ireland, Britain and the US.

Fr Smyth died in the Curragh prison in 1997 while serving a 12-year prison sentence for multiple sex offences on boys and girls between 1958 and 1993.

Fr Smith is facing further criticism after it emerged he provided a character reference to McGinley, a Traveller and father of three who was jailed for 12 years by the Central Criminal Court in 1998 for the rape of a 13-year-old girl.

McGinley, 34, who lives in Monaghan town, was fined ?200 and banned from driving for three years after being convicted of a drink-driving offence during his appearance before Monaghan District Court.

Fr Smith provided a character reference in support of McGinley, despite knowing the accused had a lengthy criminal record, including his conviction for the rape of the girl in the ?C? case.

In the reference, it is understood he described himself as abbot at the Co Cavan abbey, the position from which he retired in 1994.

Fr Smith also provided a character reference to a female relative of McGinley last week when she appeared before the same court on a charge of obstructing garda?.

Fr Smith declined to comment about the assistance he provided to McGinley and his official position at Kilnacrott Abbey to the Irish Examiner.

Abbot General of the Norbertine Order Thomas Handgr?tinger, based in Rome, declined to comment on the priest?s position at the abbey when contacted by the Irish Examiner.

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